• David Darling

The Kronos Stone, by David Darling

Updated: Jan 8

Here is a sneak peek of my time travel novel, coming out early 2022.

The Kronos Stone

FBI Special Agent Bradley Holman has been hand-picked to investigate the mother of all cover-ups: a three-hundred-year-old meteorite fragment, sealed away in Fort Knox, was stolen from under the government’s nose. The more he digs, the more he becomes embroiled in a conspiracy kept secret by every president since the formation of the United States.

As Holman draws nearer to finding the thief, it’s clear he’s out of his depth—both in terms of the powers at play and his understanding of the very fabric of the universe.

Thrown into a race to save all life on Earth, Holman must unravel the mysteries of time itself—and not lose his mind in the process.

Chapter 1

Boston, Massachusetts

2 November 1783

Clement stared at the two ceramic mugs on the farmhouse kitchen table until his eyes watered. For twenty-five years, he had made them tea each morning, and it was the third time this week he rested two mugs on the table instead of one. Each time he did, a little piece of him died.

The desire for tea fled, and he barely controlled the urge to whip the cup across the room. With trembling fingers, he gently placed it on the open wooden shelf, turned to hide the chip. With a deep sigh, Clement slipped on his jacket to ward off a sudden chill, and after a final look around the kitchen, he stepped outside the cabin.

Bare fields stretched before him, covered with a light blanket of frost. Most of the leaves had fallen with the autumn weather, and he could see deep into the woods surrounding his acreage. Within four weeks, winter would have Massachusetts firmly in its grasp. It was in the air.

When the rooster crowed from the barn, he blazed a trail across the whitened lawn to collect the morning eggs. The frozen weeds crunched underfoot, and his breath plumed in front as he followed the worn path. He would let the chickens out in the afternoon to roam free once it warmed up. It was part of the morning chores and life on a farm, and frankly, it was welcome right now. Filling the water pitcher from the well, and sweeping out the kitchen and living area only took a few minutes, but he needed to keep busy. As usual, he turned to the pile of logs.

Cords of wood were stacked six feet tall, the same height as Clement, and ran the length of the thirty-foot cabin. There was enough seasoned wood to last many years, not just one winter, no matter how brutal. But there could always be more, and it would warm him up.

After rocking his head side to side to loosen up, a calloused hand gripped the worn wooden shaft of the heavy chopping ax. The pile of wood to be split had taken a week to accumulate and his back and arms still ached.

A flick of the ax buried it into the top of a two-foot log, and with one hand, Clement placed the round on the chopping block. Biceps the size of most men’s thighs, easily lifted the weight. With a twist, the blade came free, followed by a continuous arc of momentum. As the ax passed the apex of the swing, his second hand rose to grip below the first, and guided the edge through the log with a well-aimed blow. It sounded like a gunshot as the dry elm cracked, and two halves fell. After a few minutes, the hard work warmed him, and he removed his light brown coat. The pile of split wood grew steadily on either side of the chopping block as he found his rhythm.

Clement’s mind began to wander, the downside to repetitious work. It started, as it usually did, when his eye caught the apple tree on the far side of the field.

A coughing sickness caught hold of his wife the year before, and by early spring, she did not have the strength to carry on. She had loved the spring blossoms, and they had countless meals its’ shade. It was her favorite spot.

Tearing his eyes away, Clement picked up the splits and began stacking them in a new row along the cabin. When his kids were young, this was one of their chores. However, both sons had died in the war against the British several years ago, and his heart still ached. He couldn’t do the mundane task without them coming to mind. The farmer shook his head, and brushed his short brown hair to the side.

By the time he turned forty-five years old last summer, he had more heartache than many carried. Besides his family, there were many years with failed crops or weather which would not cooperate. A blight had destroyed eight acres of corn four years ago, and there was barely enough money to last that winter. Belts were tightened, and they had made due.

To say Clement was devastated would be an understatement. He had no idea how to carry on. However, he continued to do so daily. He vowed not to place a second mug on the table the next morning.

Being physically exhausted daily left no time to grieve or wallow in misery. When he fell into bed, sleep came swift. His feet hung over the end, but he never complained. The mahogany bedroom set was an expensive gift from his wife’s parents.

In the middle of another backswing Clement froze, the hair on the nape of his neck standing on end. Far out past his field, a low rumble of thunder echoed off the tree line.

A bright blue and orange ball of fire, wreathed in black smoke, streaked through the crisp morning sky. The roll of thunder intensified, reverberating in Clement’s chest and stole his very breath.

The fireball clipped the tallest pines, vaporizing them on contact, then hurtled over the eight-acre field and roared into the leafless woods.

The invisible shockwave pushed outward across the field and lifted Clement’s heavy-set frame as if he were a pile of dried leaves. He crashed into the stack of split wood and rolled to a painful stop on his porch. The cabin creaked and groaned in protest. The window beside the front door rattled in the frame, then shattered into a thousand pieces.

Clement scrunched his eyes together and covered his head as shards of glass rained over him.

Slow to regain his feet, Clement shook his head and it didn’t take long for the high-pitched ringing in his ears to fade. Across the field, swirls of dust and leaves rose twenty feet into the air before settling. The urge to hide inside the cabin was real, and he even took a step back. One hand gripped the handle with white knuckles.

Silence reigned and the sky remained clear.

Wildlife and even the light breeze were quiet. He prayed the horses in the far pasture hadn’t bolted. His eight hens and rooster, still inside the barn, were now silent, and the usual clucking noise was absent. As the world resumed its pace, the vapor trail across the sky began to dissipate.

Electricity charged the air, and the hair on his forearms stood on end. The silence seemed unnatural, and it did little to appease the sudden dry throat and queasy stomach.

“That doesn’t happen every day.”

His whisper seemed unusually loud. Clement had seen a few meteor showers across the night sky, but nothing like this. The meteor should have landed a hundred yards farther into the woods, past the apple tree. There had little rain this fall, and the threat of a forest fire was real. The way this year has been, having my lands burn down wouldn’t surprise me. He shouldered the ax and strode across the field.

After two-hundred yards, his steps slowed. Clement removed a small branch in front of the gravestone, threw it off to the side, and shifted a few leaves to clean the area. He knew it to be a fruitless gesture with the season, and more would fall, but he didn’t mind. It had been almost eight months since his wife passed away, and it seemed like yesterday to him. The world had lost a bright light, and it made everything seem dim in comparison. They had spent many nights staring at the stars and she would have leaped at a chance to see a meteor up close.

Clement kissed his fingertips and laid them on the crude, hand-carved headstone under her apple tree.

“I miss you every day, Jeanne. You wouldn’t believe what I just saw.”

Clement swallowed the lump in his throat and entered the woods. He followed an old animal trail up the hill and headed north through the trees. After a few minutes, the scent of burned wood let him know he was getting close and the fears of a fire came back.

The meteor had collided with a stout oak and won. The thick tree was sheered through, eight feet above the ground and tendrils of smoke still rose from the stump. The remainder of the tree had crashed to one side and was hung up in a neighboring pine. A swath of broken trees and branches decorated the forest floor leading to a large slab of limestone.

The rock, like the oak, was two-feet thick and the meteor had passed through the corner without effort. A hole lay on the other side deeply burrowed into the ground. Debris had blown clear in a wide circle from the impact and revealing bare soil.

Steam rose from the hole to dissipate within a few feet, and a sharp scent of sulfur made him want to sneeze. A ticking noise, like a wet kettle on a hot wood stove, echoed off the trees.

Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.

His hands tightened on the ax handle so hard that his knuckles turned white. He tried to ignore the nervous flutter in his stomach and rushed forward. Once he stood beside the crater, Clement waved away the smoke and peered down, his eyes wide.

A black irregular rock almost two feet in diameter lay at the bottom of the narrow shaft bored into the hillside. Brief lightning sparks flickering under the surface.

The tension in his shoulders washed away.

“You don’t look dangerous.” Clement peered at the eight-foot-wide path the meteor had cut through the forest canopy and shook his head. “Not now, anyway.”

He leaned the ax against the limestone rock and searched along the swath of destruction. It didn’t take long for him to find a long, straight branch.

Clement held it firm with both hands, like a spear, and moved to the edge of the hole. Before he prodded the meteor, a dull thud sounded behind him. His heart leaped in his chest, and he scanned the area with the stick held high, ready to use if needed.

It sounded like a falling branch or a squirrel.

There was nothing to see. He was alone.

Clement turned back to the hole and his foot knocked a small rock from the edge, and it fell into the depression. Before it could strike the meteorite, the little pebble hung midair. It neither rose nor fell, but hovered in place, defying gravity.

“What in God’s name is happening?”

Clement’s jaw dropped as his heart rate doubled. He was too old to believe in magic, but before his eyes, was a trick he could not explain. He took a firm hold, extended the branch, and poked the small rock. Every time the end of the stick got close to the stone it went in a different direction.

As a child, he played with lodestones. When aligned, the magnets would attract, but you could push one away without touching it when you flipped one over. When the end of the stick got near the stone, it reacted in the same manner. Is it a giant magnet?

Clement had done rather well for the last few years, growing and selling tobacco, since the corn failed. However, could always use more money. He had buyers for his crops and labor wasn’t cheap. With such a rarity, he figured someone in Boston would buy it. With that decision made, he threw away the branch and picked up the ax. It was too expensive to leave behind.

Clement thought about the meteor’s strange properties and what it could mean as he walked back to the cabin, one eye skyward in case more were about to fall. He leaned the ax against the chopping block and headed to the barn.

It was a simple structure with a large double door and horse stalls and a pen for the chickens inside. The loft stored enough hay for the horses to get through the winter, and there was still room at the back for farm equipment. Outside, a large overhang ran along the side, protecting his tools and equipment from the rain or snow. He loaded a shovel and a length of rope into the wheelbarrow.

Clement crossed the field and followed his footprints past the apple tree. The morning sun had burned off the frost, and his leather boots kept the damp chill from his feet. He could only bring the wheelbarrow so far into the woods, roots and uneven ground made it difficult. With the coil of rope over one shoulder and shovel in hand, he carried on.

Short of the impact site, Clement froze when a noise filtered through the woods. A flicker of movement up ahead, sent his heart racing once again. He wasn’t a woodsman by any means, but he could move silently enough to hunt. Right now, he used those skills to remain hidden. Clement gingerly stepped forward and felt with his toe for sticks. With bent knees, he walked along the outside edge of his heels and rocked forward. Slow and steady. But most importantly, quietly. Using larger trees as cover, he made it to the base of the sheared-off oak and peered around the trunk.

A large man stood with his back to Clement at the crater. The figure leaned over to place something down against the big rock.

Is that a short-barreled musket?

Concerned for his safety, Clement peered around the trees, searching for others that could be with this stranger.

The man appeared to be alone.

The man picked up a long branch before facing the hollow once more. It was the same limb Clement had used to poke the meteorite.

A nervous sweat beaded across Clement’s forehead, and his hands grew clammy. A chill ran down his spine, and the shovel slipped in the palm of his left hand.

The blade arced into the tree trunk with a thunk, and he ducked behind the oak. The man beside the meteorite didn’t see him, but he got a good look at his profile.

Clement’s stomach churned, and he swallowed a few times while a second chill rippled through his body. He clutched the shovel tight against his chest so his hands wouldn’t shake.

He looked down at his white cotton shirt and tan work pants. The rugged dark leather boots were still wet from crossing the field. His light coat still lay across the woodpile beside the cabin. It took a minute, but slow deep breaths calmed his nerves, and the tremor in his hands vanished. There should be no reason to be calm, but he was.

Once again, Clement leaned around the tree to observe. As the stranger poked the meteor, he studied the man’s clothing. The stranger also wore a white shirt and tan work pants. Clement’s wife had repaired the left boot, and the red stitching on the one side was easy to spot. Even the man’s boots appeared to be the same, down to the stitching.

Clement shaved every few days looking into a small polished-steel mirror that rested on a shelf outside his outhouse. He caught the man’s profile by the impact crater again. Clement knew that face very well.

It was his own.

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